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Statement on Signing the Crime Control Act of 1990

November 29, 1990

Today I sign into law S. 3266, the "Crime Control Act of 1990." The Act contains important steps forward in several areas, particularly Federal debt collection and prosecution of financial institutions fraud. It also provides further protection for children from child abuse and child pornography. However, I must note my deep disappointment over many provisions noticeably absent from the legislation.

Over a year and a half ago, with the support of State and local police and prosecutors, I submitted to the Congress a comprehensive legislative package to assist law enforcement efforts in keeping violent criminals off our Nation's streets. That legislation contained a death penalty for the most heinous Federal crimes, including mail bombing and terrorist murder; comprehensive reform of habeas corpus proceedings that continue to nullify State death penalty laws through repetitive hearings and endless delays; reform of the exclusionary rule to allow juries to consider all evidence gathered by law enforcement officers acting in good faith; and enhanced penalties for the criminal use of firearms.

Despite the fact that each of these proposals passed one or both Houses of Congress, none is included in the legislation I am signing today. At the eleventh hour, these reforms were stripped from the crime bill by the conference committee.

I am also disturbed by provisions in S. 3266 that unnecessarily constrain the discretion of State and local governments. Examples are found in Title VIII's "rural drug enforcement" program; in Title XV's "drug-free school zones" program; and in Title XVIII's program for "correctional options incentives." Most egregiously, section 1702 inappropriately overrides legitimate State firearms laws with a new and unnecessary Federal law. The policies reflected in these provisions could legitimately be adopted by the States, but they should not be imposed on the States by the Congress.

Habeas corpus litigation is another area in which congressional policies may impede effective State law enforcement. In Public Law 101 - 515, the Congress appropriated substantial funds for "Death Penalty Resource Centers." Because S. 3266 does not include the reform of the habeas corpus system that I proposed, these Federal funds will inevitably be used in part to foster repetitive attacks on State court judgments and to delay unjustly the implementation of State sentences.

While this is not the crime bill I asked the Congress to pass, I am pleased with the tools S. 3266 provides for fighting financial institutions fraud. S. 3266 establishes within the Department of Justice an Office of Special Counsel for Financial Institutions Fraud, a Financial Institutions Fraud Unit, Financial Institutions Fraud Task Forces, and a Senior Interagency Group. In addition, the bill enhances the ability of the Federal banking agencies and the Department of Justice to seize the assets of wrongdoers and makes it more difficult for those wrongdoers to use bankruptcy to avoid civil or criminal penalties.

Furthermore, this Act improves significantly the ability of the Department of Justice to collect millions of dollars owed to the Federal Government. For the first time, the Congress has provided United States attorneys with uniform civil procedures for the collection of debts owed to the American taxpayers.

Americans have the right to be free from fear in their homes, in their streets, and in their neighborhoods. I call on the Congress to implement the remainder of the comprehensive crime package, which fell short of becoming law this session. The American people deserve tough, new laws to help us prevail in the fight against drugs and crime.

George Bush

The White House,

November 29, 1990.

Note: S. 3266, approved November 29, was assigned Public Law No. 101 - 647.

George Bush, Statement on Signing the Crime Control Act of 1990 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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